- Hipgnosis, headed by Merck Mercuriadis, recently purchased songs from Shakira and Neil Young.
- The company is shaking up music publishing with an approach that puts songwriters first.
- Primarily seeking established artists, Mercuriadis and his team pay huge amounts for song rights.
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Owning the rights to your music can be a contentious subject among artists: the likes of Taylor Swift fight tooth and nail to own their own records, with the singer committing to re-record her masters after they were purchased by record executive Scooter Braun.
Meanwhile Stevie Nicks sold some of her songs for $100 million to music publisher Primary Wave.
Among those seeking to purchase artists’ music rights is music mogul Merck Mercuriadis, the founder of the Hipgnosis Songs Fund.
The man behind the music
Now based in London, 57-year-old Canadian Mercuradis started in the industry with a job at British label Virgin Records in Toronto.
On his Twitter page, he defines himself as a vegan and a fan of British football club Arsenal.
The Evening Standard reported that all three of his daughters also work for him.
One thing setting Mercuriadis and his partner Nile Rodgers apart from many of their competitors is that they focus on targeting established artists instead of looking for fresh talent.
Another is their willingness to pay huge amounts of money for songs.
Shakira said Merck is as an ‘ally to songwriters everywhere’
In a Twitter statement after the purchase, Mercuriadis called the Colombian singer “one of the most serious and successful songwriters of the last 25 years.”
They can sometimes pay up to 15 times a song’s annual revenue, The Times reported – that’s over double what most publishers would pay.
In 2018, Mercuriadis told CNBC that he wanted to “change the songwriter’s position in the economic equation,” securing them more profits. He said the company aimed to control 20 percent of the publishing market.
In 2020, the market cap of Hipgnosis surpassed $1.3 billion (£1 billion), according to Music Business Worldwide.
In November, Variety reported that the company had bought 33,000 songs from Kobalt Music Copyrights for one of the biggest industry payouts of $323 million.
“I know Hipgnosis will be a great home for my catalog,” Shakira said in a statement – and it seems Mercuriadis is an important part of her decision.
“I’m so happy to partner with this company led by Merck, who truly values artists and their creations and is an ally to songwriters everywhere,” the Colombian singer added.